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Tuesday, 4 December, 2001, 10:55 GMT
Court backs Mugabe land reforms
Government supporters on a farm
Land invasions have disrupted farming output
Zimbabwe's Supreme Court has ruled that President Robert Mugabe's land reform programme complies with the constitution.

The Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), which represents the majority of white farmers, said the decision taken on Monday was unexpected and confirms an interim decision taken by the court last month.

The ruling removes the last remaining legal obstacle preventing the government from processing claims to white-owned farms.

Zimbabwe's land reform programme has been marred by violence since government supporters, calling themselves war veterans, began occupying white farms 18 months ago demanding that they be redistributed to landless blacks.

An estimated 1,700 white-owned farms have been occupied over the past 18 months, and police have largely failed to stem the accompanying violence.

Crisis

Last year the Supreme Court ordered the government to end violence on white-owned farms.

But three new judges have been appointed by President Mugabe since then.

Robert Mugabe
President Mugabe is seeking re-election next year

Last month, the country's Land Acquisition Act was amended so that white farmers could be forced off their land with immediate effect.

Zimbabwe's economy is already in crisis, blamed largely on the land reform programme, which has massively disrupted farming activities.

The World Food Programme is due to begin a huge relief operation this month to feed over 500,000 Zimbabweans who face hunger or starvation.

Sanctions

Zimbabwe's president is also coming under increasing pressure to hold free and fair presidential elections due by March next year.

South African President Thabo Mbeki's patience is reported to have worn thin after growing increasingly frustrated with the worsening political and economic situation in Zimbabwe.

Bread in Harare
Bread is in short supply

But South Africa remains opposed to sanctions.

The United States is expected to impose targeted sanctions on Zimbabwean leaders this week.

And Europe is moving towards similar sanctions by the end of January.

Former South African president, Nelson Mandela, expressed his support for his successor's tougher stance, saying it is not too late to ensure a fair election in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe's leading state-owned newspaper, the Herald, has accused Mr Mbeki of betraying President Mugabe and joining a Western plot to overthrow him.

See also:

10 Jun 01 | Africa
Farm invasion threatens business
10 Oct 01 | Business
Zimbabwe slashes food prices
05 Jul 01 | Africa
Zimbabwe admits food crisis
14 Jun 01 | Africa
Anger at Zimbabwe price rises
03 Dec 01 | Africa
Mugabe's election masterplan
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